Dragon Age & Difficulty v. Challenge

Before getting a chance to play Dragon Age, one thing that several people mentioned about the game was it's difficulty. "This game is hard!" exclaimed Nick Breckon of Idle Thumbs, "I've died so many times." A friend of mine also concurred saying that he's died a whole lot in the game as well. In both cases, they switched the difficulty down to easy just to make it through the game. These people aren't novice video game players by any means, but was definitely curious.

Dragon Age is a game where your character has a few different classes to choose from. You go about the game with a party of character that are different classes as well. The game has 3 main classes to choose from: Warrior, Rogue and Mage. And that's typical the order of how complex each character class is. Warrior's are dirt simple. You just walk up to an enemy and keep beating on it until it's dead. Rogues are a little more tricky because they aren't designed for brute strength. And Mages are typically the most complex because you have many spells to choose from.

It came as no surprise to me that all the talk I've heard about the game's difficulty were from people playing as a Rogue or a Mage. Apparently if you're not playing the game to its fullest, it'll kick your ass. This is why when presented with the choice of class, I went with the Warrior. I don't want the game to be difficult to the point of frustration. But I'm still not going to give the game the satisfaction of playing on Easy.

As playing a Warrior, I've found the game to be pretty damn easy, actually. I haven't messed around with Tactics. I accidentally spent my skill points on things that aren't useful. I'm not paying attention to talents. I haven't really tweaked anything to fight the most efficient fight. I was almost never saving on my own. And I'm still kicking ass, so I guess I must be doing something right.

At 15 hours into the game I experience my first death, and another hour later I ran into an actual challenge thanks to the Mage Circle. But my deaths and problems were simply because I was going into the battle without thinking. At this point the game had trained me to think any battle could be easily won. For the first time, I had to change the way I approached the battle. It only took me a couple minutes to utilize the shape shifting you have in the Mage Circle to defeat this cluster of mages and be on my way.

The game was still pretty much a cake walk until I came across Kolgrim today. This phoney Spartan was actually the first real challenge I've face in this game. My tactics of rushing into battle had no effect. Even focusing on one enemy at a time ended in failure. For the first time in the game, I was actually stuck. There was no way I was going to work with Kolgrim and whatever quest he was on. With the choices I wanted for my story, I would have to fight him and defeat him.

So, I started actually learning how to play the game correctly. I looked into all the skills and talents for the first time, I had for my characters and came up with a battle plan that actually used them. I looked at each character's tactics for the first time, too. They were all defaults as aggressive to fight the nearest opponent. What good is that going to do? If my entire party focused on one enemy at a time, we can get rid of the weaker guys right away and only have Kolgrim left to deal with.

After just messing around with the options and coming up with an actual plan of attack, I had gotten far further in the battle than I had before. Learning what the game has to offer, and utilizing it is the real difference between hitting buttons on the control and actually playing the game. If Dragon Age is "hard", then you're playing it wrong.

Unlike other RPGs, Dragon Age isn't some mindless level grind to overcome your strife. It comes down to how you play the game, and developing strategies that work.